A Penny for Your Thoughts? What an Insult!

As of this writing, the CBS News program 60 Minutes is scheduled to run a segment on Sun., Feb. 10 (7 p.m. EST), on the fate of the penny: should it be abolished or not? I was interviewed on the subject, so if the piece isn’t preempted and if I don’t end up on the cutting room floor, you can see where I stand. (Want a hint? Here you go.) The piece was done by Morley Safer. I have had the good fortune to encounter quite a few legendary journalists, in both TV and print, and Safer was easily one of the wisest, most curious, and most down-to-earth. It was really a joy to talk with him.


The penny should have disappeared long ago. The nickel should be on the chopping block too.
We should organize a demand-side revolt. Demand that all stores price their items so as to eliminate the need for pennies.
The organization would also take donations, in pennies only. The pennies are then melted down and sold as raw material.


How about getting rid of paper one-dollar bills at the same time?


It will never happen with Lincoln's 200th birthday next year.
But I favor it.

Like OP's:
And let's ditch the nickel too!
And the dollar bill!

But that would make sense.

L Nettles

This should be the year to move the penny to the museum, being Lincoln's bicentennial and all.


I'm an Aussie and it drives me nuts when I come to the US! I think our rounding rules make sense - if your bill ends in 1 or 2 cents it gets rounded down, three or four cents and it gets rounded up.

I remember when it was introduced some wags did things like go to the supermarket and buy a bunch of fruit or vegies one piece at a time. Like put each grape or mushroom through and it gets rounded down to nothing and is free. Do that over and over and you get a whole bunch/bag free. The novelty wore off in a few weeks and life went on as normal...

We also have the dollar coin but I don't think getting rid of that would work in US culture cause of the tipping. Being tipped a coin would be more of an insult I reckon. Notes are great for tipping, although I did have one pocket full of dollar notes and then a pocket full of bigger notes for "real money" and then a bag full of pennies which I would just end up leaving on the street at the end of each day...



There are some Americans who don't use pennies - Americans who live and work for the U.S. military overseas. The military commissaries and other stores round to the nearest five cents. Pennies are not worth the cost of shipping them overseas to use for change. I wonder what the cost of shipping them is within the U.S.

David Fischer

"Besides for their uselessness, pennies (and nickels) cost more to make then they are actually worth (http://www.usatoday.com/money/2006-05-09-penny-usat_x. htm)"

Is it important than currency cost less than its face value to manufacture? From a Federal perspective, is a penny worth merely one cent?

What if a one-dollar bill cost $10 to produce? What would that mean? The one dollar is not used one time for a net worth of a $1 transaction. It continues through the economy, being exchanged many times. If it's used 100 times, does that make it worth $100, offseting a hypothetical cost of $10 to produce?

At what point is current too expensive to produce?


As for the 79% people that say that they would bend down to pick up a penny (from post linked to in this post), that is ridiculous. If it takes you five seconds to pick up a penny, that equates to 12 cents a minute or $7.20 an hour. Anybody want to be paid $7.20 to bend down and pick stuff up off the floor all day? Maybe some, but probably not 79% of people. I would do it for a quarter though, this would be $180 an hour, maybe even for a nickel, $36 an hour.

And please don't start talking about eliminating the dollar bill. What are we, Canadian? The dollar bill has the picture of our first president on it. We can do away with the penny because the Lincoln is also on the five dollar bill. Plus, visits to the strip club will be far more expensive because we will have to use fives - what stripper wants a coin stuffed in her g-string. Either that or strip clubs will create their own 1 dollar bills that strippers can exchange on the way out.



I'll still stoop for a penny.

Having a spare penny in the pocket comes in handy when the bill is $15.01 and you are paying with a $20 bill.

With no penny to accompany the $20, you walk away with four paper singles, three quarters, two dimes and four pennies. All that change is heavy in the pocket.

I prefer the $5 bill.

Scott Fitchet

Bummer, trackbacks don't work. :(

I wanted to say that while you're at it just get rid of odd numbers too.

That way you only have to count on on of your hands! :)


I like singles. Can you imagine carrying around a bunch of $1 bills? It's like being in Latin America- too much change to carry around.


In light of the fact it now costs over 1.5 cents to produce a penny many people are in favor of "abolishing" the penny. This isn't necessary if the mint agrees to stop producing them for a length of time--say 1 year? In that time instead of minting new pennies for over 1.5 cents each, they could get people to return the pennies that are currently out of circulation (in their penny jars) for say a 5% incentive. This would have a number of results-people would empty their penny jars and return those pennies to circulation for less than cost to produce a new penny (1.05 cents vs. over 1.5 cents).

Also, since the mint is probably a major purchaser of zinc to produce the penny, by holding off they would severly lower demand and thereby price for that resource, causing the price to produce new pennies in the future to fall. Shift that demand curve left!


I'm hopeful that in a few years I won't need to carry cash for any purpose whatsoever, thus making the penny's persistence a moot point. This will raise the question, however, of what will happen to people begging for change, who are not equiped to handle visa transactions?


online version:



I totally agree with some of the comments above -- this should be a moot point. Why is all money transaction not electronic already?!?


I like the system they use here in S. Korea- the price already includes tax, so there is no math at the register. We could get rid of the penny, nickle and dime that way (I'd still like to keep the quarter, thank you.)

There would be no need for a rounding system that way. Here when I buy a book for $10 (10,000 KRW) I know that $9 of that is the cost of the book and $1 is tax.

Unindicted Co-conspirator

Pennies are required for sales taxes.
And that's what's really behind the demands to dump the penny. A national value added tax to replace the sales & income taxes.
It's the dream of the Ron Paul types of wackos.
In other words, lets tax the poor on that "vast amount of the underground economy that doesn't pay income tax now", so the rich can get away scot freer than before.
The underground economy is dwarfed by the taxes not paid by the hedge fund billionaires & their scam of 15% income tax.
To #12, it's the lack of sales tax at overseas military posts that makes it possible to not have pennies.


To #24,

Your argument makes me laugh.
If you like pennies then you must be one of the four categories I mention.

However you are being like most people and not arguing rationally.
As soon as people resort to using rhetorical questions and name calling, they have already lost.

Thus, you must be the slow kid.



#33 Why do we need pennies, can you answer that one question? If you can convince me (I'm open minded), I'll retract my name calling, but if not I stand by it. Are you in one of those four categories? Do you agree with me? Do you think wasting 134 million dollars per year on producing pennies and wasting everyones time at the cash register is a good thing? Do you think we could spend this money in a more efficient manner?

There is no way this country will keep the penny forever. Thus, why not get rid of the wastefulness now instead of in the future? All we are doing is delaying the inevitable at a significant cost, does that make sense? Didn't you just name call back at the end of your email?


Australia dumped it's one and two cent coins fifteen years ago. It makes for interesting rounding rules.